Butterfly in the sky ... I can fly twice as high

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pew Report: Young American Reading Habits

A few weeks ago, the Pew Internet and American Life project published their results concerning the reading habits of young Americans, age 16-29. Linda Braun, at the YALSA blog has published a 3-part posting commenting on this report. Her posts were built through the Storify web tool, that allows you to amalgamate social media context into a more linear sourced story. This is not only a fantastic new tool that I have discovered, but Braun's postings really get at the ways that youth service  librarians can interpret and apply the Pew findings.

Much of the discussion in Braun's postings focuses on digital reading and e-books in the library. The Pew study presents some pretty compelling evidence for the possible benefits of expanding such programs for teens. While teens still remain one of the least likely age-groups to utilize e-readers, evidence seems to point that this is more an issue of access, than interest. Pew mentioned that 58% of those who do not have an e-reader would be interested or very interested in pre-loaded e-reader borrowing. There is a strong desire amongst young readers for instant access, and digital material offers this. Its also why Braun notes how essential it is for libraries to build up their web presence with strong usability options for teens. Her postings provide a good overview of the Pew findings.

In offering some advice going forward, Braun recognizes that expanding e-reader programs can be very expensive for libraries. She offers a number of sources including the ALA's Digital Content Working Group, with resources and information for librarians. I would go a step further, though, and emphasize another Pew statistic: those under 30 were more likely to read off of their cell phone or computer than an e-reader. Instead of focusing so much on the devices, we can find ways for more people to access digital materials with the devices they already have. Encouraging e-reader growth is good, but should be second to the content.

While Braun and I might disagree slightly as to the importance of e-reader devices, we would agree that content is the biggest factor.  Braun finishes her 3-part conversation by offering some further reading about the convoluted and contentious world of e-publishing. I think changing the nature of the library-publisher relationship concerning digital content will be critical going forward as the nature of "ownership" begins to take on new meanings. The Pew research shows that teens are reading, they are reading for pleasure, and they are using the library. These are all great. But we can do an even better job of giving young adults instant access to content, and access to sources of interest for their age group.

Finally, I'm also really compelled by the storify.com tool. It appears to be almost a more dynamic version of wikipedia, where one can directly follow the tweets/blogs/links to additional content. The storify board serves as an organizational tool to connect these different sources towards an overarching message. This is the first time I have seen this tool and will be sure to explore it further. Let me know if any of you have used Storify and how you like it.

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